BY IKOME CHRISTIE-NOELLA EPOSI IN BUEA
Some 69 repentant forest users ranging from poachers, porters, guides, illegal timber exploiters who later became beneficiaries of the program for sustainable management of natural resources (PSMNR) have during their graduation ceremony in Buea taken the commitment to be ambassadors of change (not return to the forests) and make good use of the skills they have acquired from the Cameroon Opportunity Industrialization Centre (OIC) during their 9 months of intensive training.
Funded by the German Development Bank (KFW), the trainees who graduated on Thursday, March 31, 2022 from the 1st and 2nd batches are from four protected areas; the Mount Cameroon and Korup National parks for the first batches and the second batch consist of beneficiaries from Bakossi and Banya-Mbo National parks.
In her welcome note, the Programs Director of COIC, Elinge Marie Limunga noted that the Cameroon OIC Buea signed a memorandum of understanding with PSMNR-SWR on October 21 2020 to impact beneficiaries with practical oriented knowledge and develop in them marketable skills in seven vocational disciplines. She added that the trainees have undergone a great reformation in the cognitive, attitudinal and psych motive aspects of their lives.
“When the trainees came to OIC, they were recalcitrant, unruly and simply uncontrollable. After many sessions of counseling and orientation, there was a change in perspective and that is why we are celebrating them today”. The Programs Director revealed.
To the trainees she said, “It is time to go and be self-reliant and exploit the job market. Technicians can never be without jobs. Do make absolute use of your competencies” she advised.
The regional delegate of Forestry and Wildlife/Coordinator of PSMNR-SWR, Erem epse Ikome Delphine addressing the multitude of persons present at the graduation ceremony stated that the PSMNR-SWR is a development program of the government of Cameroon, co-financed by the Federal Republic of Germany through KFW and implemented through MINFOF for the South-West Region, assisted by GFA/DFS consulting group.
The overall objective of the PSMNR, she added, is to contribute towards the preservation of high value ecosystems in the South-West Region thereby contributing to improved livelihoods of the surrounding communities in a sustainable manner.
“You all have been given the opportunity to better your lives and build a bright future for yourselves and your families. We have shown you the way, thanks to the financial support of the program through KFW, You shall be supported with some means through your respective park services to help you move on but the overall success lies with you and how seriously you practice and develop your skills in your chosen professions”. SWR Delegate of MINFOF to the trainees.
Talking to the press, the South-West Regional Delegate of Employment and Vocational Training, Orock Thomas mentioned that the role of the ministry he represents is to fight against youth unemployment which then makes vocational training very important, “What is being done here today is complementing government’s action in the fight against youth unemployment. Poverty and unemployment breeds instability so this is one of the measures we can use to curb instability and divert the attention of the young people from too much reliance on forest especially at this time that we are trying to fight against climate change”.
Ekose Elias from Mapanja village is one of the beneficiaries of the PSMNR-SWR. He stated that with the certificate gotten, he is confident of getting a job in any company of his choice. He graduated from Auto Mechanics and with this he hoped to open his own Auto mechanic place and invite his friends and brothers to also leave the forest and benefit from such trainings.
The first batch of trainees, 23 in number and the second batch of 46 all graduated from the departments of auto mechanics/Motor electricity and driving, information and communication technology, wood work, metal fabrication welding and spraying, building construction, plumbing, electricity and draftsmanship, hotel management and catering.
It is equally important to note that during their 9 months of intensive training, 6 months were spent on campus doing hands-on training and the other 3 months was off campus (on-the-job training) in their various specific departments.